Rationing for social care hardwired into the Care Act

This week the Queen’s Speech set out the Coalition’s plans for their final year in Government. Today we learnt the details about one of the most critical reforms of the last year – who will be eligible for social care under the new Care Act.

Last month’s passage of the Care Act represents a huge achievement for the Coalition Government.  For the first time, we have a single modern law that governs social care.  It is a truly aspirational piece of legislation – placing the well-being of those using social care at the heart of the Bill.

For Scope – and other members of the Care and Support Alliance – the final question remained – who will be eligible for social care support?  The Care Act represents a huge opportunity to make sure that every disabled and older person who needs social care support can get it, with the introduction of a new ‘national eligibility threshold’.

Today the Government has released details about who will be eligible for social care – and has confirmed that those older and disabled people who are shut out of the social care system will continue to receive little to no social care support.

For Scope, we believe there is a real risk that continuing to ration social care support will fatally undermine the Government’s focus on improving preventative social care.

We know that as local authority budgets are squeezed, the support that disabled people receive to get up, get washed and get out of the house is also being squeezed.

Take the example of Julie-Ann from Crawley in Sussex. Julie-Ann lost her sight three years ago and is deaf. She used to receive four hours of social care support a week that supported her to wash, cook and get out of her house.

She has been deemed no longer eligible for care, and now struggles with tasks around the house and suffers from loneliness.

Specifically, today’s publication confirms that many people unable to get out and about could fall through the net – this could include people who are on the autistic spectrum or who have dementia, a learning disability or a mental health condition.

With the Care Act comes the opportunity to make sure such people are eligible for social care. However, on the basis of the Government’s plans today, we have instead seen existing rationing for social care hardwired into the Act.

We know that sitting behind this rationing is the chronic underfunding of social care. For the Care Act to be truly transformational – ensuring the wellbeing of everyone who uses social care – it must be matched by bold investment.

With increasing numbers of older people and disabled adults needing care, there must be a new consensus on adequately funding social care services. What’s more, there is increasing consensus that doing so could generate real savings across Government.

The Department of Health is holding a final public consultation on the regulations. Scope will be responding to make sure that the details are improved as far as possible to allow disabled people who need social care support are able to receive it.

We encourage you to get involved, making it clear just how important social care support is in allowing disabled people to live their lives.

Four things to look out for in today’s Queen’s Speech

Today’s Queen’s Speech will be the last under the Coalition and first under a fixed term Parliament.  Speculation about the contents of the speech this year has been about whether its contents can give the Coalition enough energy to last the course. But what will the speech mean for disabled people?

This year the speculation surrounding the Queen’s Speech has been about how ‘light’ it will be in terms of proposed legislation. Whatever is included we can expect Wednesday’s speech to contain proposals that aim to capture the electorate’s imagination before the fast approaching General Election.

From the trickles of announcement made throughout the last year – as well as in the press over the past week – we know about a few of them. As ever, Scope will be watching out for what the announcement means for disabled people and for Scope.

Here are four things that we will be watching out for.

1. Tax free childcare

In last year’s Budget the Government announced that it will introduce Tax-free Childcare for working parents in 2015. Under the scheme, eligible families would be entitled to a 20% discount on their annual childcare costs, up to a limit of £10,000 per child. A Bill to introduce this is expected in the Queen’s Speech.

Government support for childcare costs is welcome: families with disabled children tell us that childcare costs are a key barrier to work.

But it is likely that some disabled children will miss out on Tax-free Childcare in the current proposals.  This is because parents of disabled children would not be able to use such a scheme if they wanted to buy child care that is registered with the CQC and not with Ofsted. This includes domiciliary care or short breaks.

This would be a major omission that would exclude the parents of disabled children from help with the cost of childcare – which can often be higher for disabled children.

We will be keeping a close eye on the proposals and will continue to push Government to make sure that all families with disabled children can benefit from any new Bill.

2. Regulation of Health and Social care professionals

Social Care reform has been a huge priority of the Coalition.  The Care Bill – now Care Act – was included in the past two Queen’s Speeches.  And care could be included yet again.

The Government has hinted that they could create consistency in the regulation of health and social care professionals through a better framework for registration, standards and professional development.

Well regulated, motivated social care professionals are crucial in delivering high quality care for disabled people, and Scope would welcome any moves by Government to improve this. But we will continue to remind Government that although this is crucial, whilst the social care system remains chronically underfunded disabled people who need social care will still lose out on the support they need to live their lives.

3. Social Finance

The Coalition has made social investment a priority over the past 4 years. In 2012 Scope became one of the first UK charities to enter capital markets with its listed bond programme, and we have supported the Government in their work in this area.

This Queen’s Speech is expected to include legislation that focuses on the legal framework in which charities operate in the area of social finance, specifically on improving the administrative burdens and technical problems. We’ll be watching to see what this means for Scope.

4. Welfare reform

The final year of the Coalition will see many of the Government’s welfare reform measures continue to come into effect. From the roll out of the new Personal Independence Payment to changes in housing benefits, many of these changes will impact upon disabled people.

We’ll be watching out for the Speech to include anything specific on welfare reform – and what this could mean for disabled people.